Long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were found to be associated with lower prevalence of severe headache in the US.
People who have higher levels of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in their diet may have lower prevalence of severe headache, according to a recent study.1 Nationally representative data was used to evaluate whether there is a link between increased consumption of omega-3 PUFAs and protection against headache or migraine in the US.
“We analyzed NHANES nutrition data over a six-year period during which severe headache and migraine was assessed in a representative sample of the US adult population. We found inverse dose-dependent associations between EPA and DHA and prevalence of severe migraine or headache that persisted when adjusted for potential confounders including body mass index and total energy intake,” wrote first author Anne Elizabeth Sanders, PhD of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), and colleagues.
Research has suggested that omega-3 PUFAs may have pain-killing and anti-inflammatory properties. Both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 PUFAs found in high concentrations in oily cold-water fish, such as salmon and sardines. Both are precursors to several immune modulators and may play a role in decreasing inflammation. Because of these properties, they are used in inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, and may decrease the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
The study is noteworthy because it quantified serum concentration of CRP as a measure of inflammation and a potential mediator of the analgesic properties of PUFAs. Similar studies have relied solely on dietary recall questionnaires.
In the study, researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) for 1999-2004. The analysis included data from 12,318 adults with self-reported severe headache or migraine in the past three months. Researchers estimated EPA and DHA levels from 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires. A subset of 11,733 participants underwent blood draws, from which serum concentrations of CRP were measured.
1. Sanders AE, Shaikh SR, Slade GD. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and headache in the U.S. population. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018;135:47-53.
2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. and Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf. Accessed September 10, 2018.
3. Lloyd-Jones DM, Hong Y, Labarthe D, et al. Defining and setting national goals for cardiovascular health promotion and disease reduction: the American Heart Association's strategic Impact Goal through 2020 and beyond. Circulation. 2010;121:586-613.